Rock Climbing and Rethinking Our Competence

I recently went rock climbing for the first time.

Scaling the face of a rock was so far outside my comfort zone that I suspected there was something to be learned about daring and dreaming.

Lesson #1 — Surround ourselves with heroes of support
When Whitney C, our host, asked a group of us who wanted to go rock climbing the next day, I immediately raised my hand. In a quieter moment, my husband expressed surprise and delight; he had fully expected I would stay behind. Five years ago, his prediction would have been accurate. Fear of heights, falling, looking clumsy. Yep, I would have opted out.

Are we surrounding ourselves with people who want us to be the hero of our story? People who, when they see us doing things differently than we have in the past, moving from the sidelines of our life to the center, encourage us? Are we, in turn, heroes of support?

Photo courtesy of Kyle Hirsch

Lesson #2 — Systergy bridges us from imagine to explore
I wanted to climb, but I was scared. Laurel, who had agreed to belay me, not only made sure there was so little slack in the rope that if I lost my footing I wouldn't fall more than a few inches, she continually shouted out “atta girls”.

When we want to explore, and showing up is a feat in and of itself, being able to place ourselves in the capable hands of another, often bridges us from imagine to explore. Knowing that Laurel, and her husband Devon, were committed to helping me and the other neophytes in the group was a gift.

Photo courtesy of Seth Neilson

Lesson #3 — Exploring helps us rethink our competence
Once I’d reached my summit, I was truly proud. By exploring, I had conquered (at least for the moment) my fear of climbing, looking clumsy, and especially of heights.

It is, however, interesting to me that while I love going fast (perhaps because speed is somehow emblematic of ambition), I don't love heights (symbolic of perspective?). When we go fast, we can only see to the horizon; when we go up, we see so so, so, much more. Could it be that our possibilities, indeed our magnificence, albeit glorious, frighten us just a wee bit?

What have you tried recently that you were afraid to do?

Why were you afraid?

Even if you were fairly clumsy, as I was rock climbing, how did you feel afterward?

What role did the people around you play?

What similarities do you see between belaying and mentoring? Parenting?

Are you ever overwhelmed by your own possibilities of who you are and what you can accomplish?

I am. Perhaps I'll try sky diving next.

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